Just days after being forced to withdraw from the Battle of Jutland commemorations due to medical reasons, the Duke of Edinburgh was on top form once again as he visited the Veterans Aid hostel in Limehouse earlier today. At the hostel, His Royal Highness met a resident who once guarded Buckingham Palace.
Nathan Rooke is an Army Air Corps veteran, and was stationed at the Palace in 2009. He served as an aviation communications specialist with 4 Squadron from 2007 to 2011, but fell on hard times after leaving the service.
“My relationship broke down and I lost my job and it just spiraled downwards after that,” Mr Rooke told Prince Philip. “I found myself on the streets. All I had was my guitar and a bag of clothes and my ‘screaming eagle’ belt buckle from my days in the Army Air Corps.”
However, things took a turn for the better when he was advised to get in touch with Veterans Aid. “I busked my way to London and Veterans Aid were amazing,” he continued. “I was put up in a hotel at first and given money to get something to eat. I just burst into tears.”
Nathan Rooke is now among the first to occupy a room at the refurbished New Belvedere House. Veterans Aid has also paid for Mr Rooke to attend a sound engineers course, and bought him a computer, which has given him the opportunity to compose a song called “Hearts and Minds” along with fellow resident Ross de Freitas, about the experiences faced by war veterans.
Veterans Aid was started in 1932 with the view to help ex-servicemen and women in crisis, specifically homelessness caused by poverty and unemployment. In 2015, the charity provided a home to 184 veterans, as well as paying for the rehab, training and education of many more, and subsequently finding them jobs.
New Belvedere House, the charity’s hostel in East London is currently undergoing a £7 million refurbishment project that began in January. Money for the project is being raised through donations which can be made through the Veterans Aid website, and the campaign has gained the support of a number of eminent personalities including Prince William, David Cameron, Stephen Fry and David Beckham. The Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to the hostel was to see the ongoing work and the impact it would have on the veterans in need.
Veterans Aid CEO Dr Hugh Milroy said: “The New Belvedere House makeover project is the largest single investment of money, human resource and community engagement in the charity’s history and it is on track to deliver a facility that will change the way people think about hostels.”
“The Duke of Edinburgh has attended all of our carol concerts but this is the first time he has seen how money raised by donors and supporters translates into delivery of practical help,” he added. “We were delighted and honoured when he accepted our invitation to visit.”